Saturday, November 30, 2019

A Month In The Life: November 2019

We're in the homestretch, y'all! Just one more month between us and 2020, which is WILD. And while I've had some awesome experiences this year, I always find myself looking forward to the new one about this time. But first, there are holidays to enjoy!

In Books...
  • Patron Saints of Nothing: A Filipino-American teenager, Jason, goes to the Philippines to investigate his cousin's mysterious death amidst Duterte's drug war in this book that tries, but can't quite rise above Issue Book tropes. There's merit here, and a clear desire to raise awareness, but thin characterization and clunky exposition keep it from ever taking off.
  • The Death and Life of the Great Lakes: Given my strong emotional attachment to the Great Lakes as a native Michigander, this was always going to appeal to me. But the examination of the disasters that have transpired through human meddling is written with a clear-eyed urgency and ease to read that makes it especially compelling.
  • Slam: This almost seems like an experiment to see if the man-child attitude of a Nick Hornby character works better on an actual teenage boy. Honestly, it kind of does? Sam is a teenage skateboarder, himself the child of teenage parents, when he gets his girlfriend Alicia pregnant and she elects to keep the baby. I've always enjoyed Hornby's warm humor, but this book just doesn't really go anywhere. 
  • The Great Mortality: The Black Death was a historical event I didn't have much of a grasp on and wanted to learn more about, but this book proved to be a bit of a mixed bag. It was clearly well-researched, but John Kelly's writing style was so casual that it didn't really work for me. It shoots for being entertaining and lands too often on cheesy, which is a pity because I did feel like I learned from it and would have liked it more if it had been more restrained. 
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley: This movie is one of those that I always enjoy watching, so I was curious about the source material. It's different...the murder takes place much earlier, more time is devoted to Ripley's efforts to evade discovery, but it's still very good. Highsmith builds interesting characters and relationships even while keeping the tension humming. 
  • Offshore: This very short novel tells the story of a group of people living on houseboats on the River Thames, with a particular focus on a young wife and mother, Nenna, who is unhappily separated from her husband. The prose is lovely and she does excellent work creating characters without having a lot of pages in which to do so, but the plot didn't quite work for me and the ending left me cold.
  • After The Party: This book tells the story of Phyllis, who returns to England with her older husband and three children before World War 2 and gets involved with a movement both her sisters already belong to...the British Union of Fascists. Phyllis had some inconsistencies as a character, which was a problem because she was the narrator, but the prose quality is solid and the story is interesting, and a very different take on a WW2 tale.

In Life...
  • Winter begins: It was a pretty quiet November, but with this being Thanksgiving weekend, it's officially the holiday season. I baked a delicious Zingerman's coffee cake for dessert for the big meal, and we got our first significant snowfall of the season!

One Thing:

I was not an especially frequent visitor to sports blog Deadspin, though I look forward every year to Drew Magary's Hater's Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog. But even if you never loaded the website once, the way that it and other media outlets have been purchased and essentially pillaged by private equity is chilling. In a world where getting a reliable paycheck for writing and journalism is growing more and more difficult, the bravery of the whole staff for resigning in protest of the challenges made to their editorial independence is inspiring. Deadspin Forever.

Gratuitous Pug Picture:


  1. I liked The Talented Mr. Ripley book, but I haven’t seen the movie yet. I know it has a lot of fans. Have a good December!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. It's a really solid movie, definitely worth a watch sometime! Thanks and you too!